Sutton steps in.

Another quick, slightly late dispatch from the vacation trail: Free agent defenseman Andy Sutton has been added on a two-year, $4.25 million contract.

Sutton immediately addresses the Ducks’ need for a veteran top-four defenseman, although he isn’t the point producer many anticipated – namely, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Tomas Kaberle. Sutton is another shot-blocker, to the tune of 204 last season — second-most in the NHL. While averaging 20:24 of ice time, the 6-foot-6, 245-pounder was also eighth among all defenseman with 197 hits. Sutton chipped in with five goals and eight assists in a regular season split between the Islanders and Senators.

Said Anaheim GM Bob Murray (via the team’s official website): “We inquired about him at the deadline last year. I just couldn’t make
things work in time to get him. … I talked to Pat Morris (his agent) very early about Andy. We waited a
little while and talked again. I had to see where the whole (James) Wisniewski
thing went and we had to let that play out a little bit. I think Andy is
very excited about playing with our group and we’re very excited to
have him. We were all patient and let things unfold.”

While regarded as one of the top defensive-minded defensemen still on the market, there are concerns about Sutton’s giveaways (he had 64 in 72 games last season) and durability. The 35-year-old missed eight games last season with a groin injury, and has broken the 70-game plateau only twice in his career.

The Ducks’ other main blue-line acquisition, Toni Lydman, is also a giveaway liability — he had 49 in 67 games last season. But he’s also a good shot-blocker who piles up hits. If nothing else the Ducks will enter the season with two proven defensemen (Sutton and Lydman) who are tough to play against in the defensive zone. Brett Festerling and Sheldon Brookbank are close to being mentioned in that group, as well.

The question now is, who will move the puck and take the shot from the blue line? If they don’t make a play for Kaberle, the Ducks may turn to rookies Luca Sbisa, Cam Fowler or even Danny Syvret to help replace the offensive contributions of retired captain Scott Niedermayer. Aside from workhorse Lubomir Visnovsky, who averaged 5:09 power-play time per game last season, no current Ducks defenseman averaged more than 0:55 per game on the power play last season (that was Lydman).

There is also the question of how quickly the defense will come together as a unit. That was among the Ducks’ main issues early last season, when they were trying to integrate three new defensemen (Nick Boynton, Sbisa and Steve Eminger). This year, only Brookbank will come into training camp having had a full NHL season under head coach Randy Carlyle’s system; Sutton, Lydman, Fowler and Syvret will have had no in-game experience at all.

This has not dampened Sutton’s optimism.

“It’s a great fit,” he said. “It’s
a team that can go all the way, which was important to me. It’s a
mature team, a veteran team and the sky is the limit with this club.”

Brookbank re-signs for 2 years, $1.5 million. Update.

Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank has parlayed a career year into a two-year, $1.5 million contract with the Ducks. The 29-year-old will earn $700,000 in 2010-11 and $800,000 the following season for a $750,000 cap hit.

Brookbank set career highs in 2009-10 in games played (66), assists (9), points (9), plus/minus (plus-10) and penalty minutes (114). His plus/minus rating and penalty minute total were second on the team, and his eight fighting majors tied for third.

Ducks management first approached Brookbank about a possible contract extension during the second half of last season. While he considered the possibility of seeking more money as a free agent, the deciding factor was that “I was comfortable here,” he said.

“I didn’t want to get too greedy. I wanted to be somewhere I feel like I fit in. I feel like I fit in here and my wife likes it here too.”
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Report: NHL reviewing Wisniewski hit.

James Wisniewski awoke this morning a household name (again) in Chicago.

In case you missed his hit on Brent Seabrook in the second period of the Ducks’ 4-2 win over the Blackhawks last night, here is why the city of Chicago is calling for the former Blackhawk’s head on a platter.

According to a report on ESPN.com, the NHL is looking into the hit.
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Blackhawks are banged up.

It’s not just the hit that Alex Ovechkin laid on Brian Campbell Sunday that has the Chicago Blackhawks limping into Wednesday’s game with the Ducks.

Campbell, in case you missed it, broke his clavicle and rib as a result of Ovechkin’s hit, which resulted in a game misconduct and two-game suspension for the Caps’ captain. The Blackhawks defenseman is expected to miss 7-8 weeks, which projects to a return during the Stanley Cup Finals at the earliest, should Chicago make it that far.

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Nick Boynton – whom the Ducks traded to Chicago for future considerations on March 2 – from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs to take Campbell’s roster spot.

Chicago forward Marian Hossa returned to practice today after missing Sunday’s game against Washington with an “upper-body injury.” His status for tomorrow is unknown.

Hawks goalie Cristobal Huet is battling the flu and will be benched in favor of Antti Niemi against the Ducks. Corey Crawford was recalled from Rockford Tuesday to serve as the emergency backup.

The Ducks could be without forward Ryan Getzlaf (ankle) and Teemu Selanne (shoulder). Both are listed as questionable after sustaining the injuries Sunday, and will be game-day decisions.

Ducks acquire Aaron Ward.

Landing the depth defenseman they wanted, the Ducks have traded goaltender Justin Pogge and a future fourth-round draft pick to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Aaron Ward.

Ward told reporters in Raleigh this morning that he will not be in Anaheim for tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche, but told Randy Carlyle he will practice with his new team Thursday.

In an interview with TSN this morning, Ward, who has been anxiously awaiting a trade, said he “was surprsied it’s Anaheim.”

“I’m happy from the fact I feel it’s a new lease on life,” he said. “October, November, I thought I had the poorest runs of hockey in my career and wasn’t very happy with it. I think I’ve played well the last few months.”

Ward, who turned 37 in January, has a goal and 11 points in 60 games this season for the Hurricanes. His minus-17 rating was second-lowest on the team.

In 822 career NHL games, Ward has recorded 44 goals and 149 points with 728 penalty minutes. A three-time Stanley Cup champion with Detroit (1997, 98) and Carolina (2006), the 6-2, 209-pound defenseman has added four goals and 10 points in 95 career playoff games.

“Aaron Ward brings valuable experience and is a proven winner with
three Stanley Cup championships,” Ducks GM Bob Murray said in a
statement. “We are pleased to bring him on board.”

Pogge was acquired in the off-season from the Toronto Maple Leafs to serve as the team’s third goaltender. The 23-year-old split the season between ECHL Bakersfield and AHL San Antonio, where he carried a 2.57 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in 23 games.

The Ducks have three young goalies already under contract. Timo Pielmeier and Jean-Phillippe Levasseur are currently in Bakersfield, and Marco Cousineau is finishing up his final season in the QMJHL.

Ward gives the Ducks seven NHL defensemen under contract. They have been playing with six since Nick Boynton was assigned to the AHL on Feb. 2.

Boynton traded to Chicago.

Defenseman Nick Boynton, who hasn’t played for the Ducks since Jan. 26, was traded Monday to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for future considerations. 
 
The 31-year-old was playing for the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League at the time of the trade. He appeared in nine games with the Moose this season after appearing in 42 games for the Ducks to start the season. Signed as a free agent on July 9, 2009, Boynton collected a goal and seven points with 59 penalty minutes for Anaheim.

Following several healthy scratches, he was placed on waivers Feb. 1 and went unclaimed.

Boynton to AHL, Beleskey up, etc.

Nick Boynton has been assigned to the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, and Matt Beleskey has been recalled from ECHL Bakersfield. Boynton cleared waivers on Tuesday.

Presumably, this leaves the Ducks with six defensemen and 15 forwards for tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center.

Also, minor-leaguers Shawn Weller and and Mark Mitera have been reassigned from Bakersfield to Abbotsford (B.C.) of the AHL. Weller, a forward, was leading the Condors with 18 goals and 46 points and was the team captain. Mitera, a defenseman selected in the first round by the Ducks (19th overall) in 2006, had three goals and 13 points in 36 games.

Selanne, Blake in; Boynton, Beleskey out.

Teemu Selanne is back at right wing on the Ducks’ second line, joining new left wing Jason Blake with center Saku Koivu. The Ducks and Panthers are just getting underway in Sunrise, Florida.

With Selanne re-joining the team, Matt Beleskey has been re-assigned to ECHL affiliate Bakersfield. Defenseman Nick Boynton was placed on waivers earlier in the day, and can be claimed by any NHL team before 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Playing mostly alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry on the Ducks’ top line, Beleskey had five goals and nine points in 34 games this season for the Ducks. His five goals in January tied for second among all NHL rookies.

A fourth-round draft pick of the Ducks in 2006, Beleskey has never appeared below the AHL level. In 15 AHL games this season, split between San Antonio and Toronto, Beleskey had two goals and seven points.

Dallas 5, Ducks 3.

Playing their second straight game without injured center Ryan Getzlaf, the Ducks’ offense didn’t suffer nearly as much as their defense in Dallas.

Loui Eriksson’s hat trick, including a short-handed goal that opened the scoring, sent the Ducks to their third loss in their last four games. Eriksson’s second goal was the back-breaker — draped by Sheldon Brookbank, he flung a one-handed shot weakly between the legs of Jonas Hiller that somehow eldued the Ducks’ goalie at 6:19 of the second period.

Exactly 30 seconds after that goal tied it at 2, Stephane Robidas’ point shot angled in off the stick of Ducks defenseman Nick Boynton, and the Stars would not trail again.

Saku Koivu scored twice, and Dan Sexton added a pair of assists, in a losing effort for the Ducks. Mike Brown scored his career-high fifth goal for the Ducks, who got 37 saves from Hiller.

Forward Todd Marchant left the game midway through the second period and did not return.